Think of it as “Home Alone – with goblins, sprites and bogles, oh my!” And a griffin and a uncouth pig-like creature whose spit-in-the-eye (yeeech!) makes all the unseen world around a spooky old Addams-family house out in the middle of the north woods visible for twins Jared and Simon and their sister Mallory. As far as young Jared is concerned, he has been dragged kicking and screaming away from the city and his father by his newly divorced mother. Angry, resentful and with a hasty temper, he is still the one who finds the dumb-waiter hidden behind a plastered wall, the secret study upstairs and sealed book – possession of which drives the whole rest of the story. For the book was the creation of naturalist Arthur Spiderwick, and there in loving and minute detail is everything about all the creatures, great and small, helpful and malign who inhabit that secret and unseen world. Based on the popular book series by Tony DiTerllizi and Holly Black, the movie is exactly what young book-fans would have been waiting for.

The look and atmosphere of this movie is lush and believable; the various creatures are fully-realized, and some of the sequences – especially those involving the sprites – are just dazzlingly beautiful. It is purely amazing how far this sort of thing has come. The Spiderwick Chronicles critters make Ray Harryhousen’s stop-action creations in Jason and the Argonauts look as basic as a simple pencil sketch animated by flipping pages.

The extras are lavish, most of them included on a second disc. The cast interviews come as a little surprise – here we have an American fairy tale, and the two child stars are from the British Isles, and the location shoots were in Canada. The most interesting, technically speaking is how the special effects critters were designed and generated – at a cost of much computer and tech-hours, of course. In the very near future, movie makers may well be able to get along without live actors all together, at the light-speed rate that effects generation animation is barreling along.

“The Spiderwick Chronicles” will be available June 24, from Amazon.com and other retail outlets.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. Her next work, the Adelsverein Trilogy will be available in December, 2008. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com.

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